Mahmud Mekki: Egypt's new VP is a daring reformist judge


Pro-reform Egyptian judge Mahmud Mekki (C) and others gather outside the Egyptian Supreme Court before a disciplinary hearing in Cairo 18 May 2006. Police have arrested dozens of Egyptians demonstrating in support of pro-reform judges and opposition Ghad party leader Ayman Nur, security sources said.


Khaled Desouki

Egypt's President Morsi on Sunday swore in prominent reformist judge Mahmud Mekki as the new vice president, 10 days after appointing his brother Ahmed as justice minister, the two emerging as power brothers in the president's inner circle. 

The meteoric rise of the brothers Mekki comes amid the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, a moderate Islamic group that backed Morsi's presidential bid and has long had close ties to both brothers, according to reports. Neither of the Mekkis are members, however. 

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The new vice president, Judge Mahmud Mekki, is already quite well-known in Egypt for his outspoken opposition to former President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted by popular protest last year, said Yahoo!News. It was rumored that Mekki might even run for president in the country's recent presidential elections, but the judge said he would rather stay independent, according to The Daily News Egypt -- guess he's changed his mind now? 

That will become clearer as Morsi moves to define what, exactly, the role of the vice president will be. The country's interim constitution is pretty much mum on the position, and it's not like there's a lot of history to fall back on -- Mekki is Egypt's first civilian vice president since the 1952 revolution and only the second person to fill the post in the last three decades, according to Ahram Online

Mekki's rebellious streak has its own history, and it's not limited to recent events in Tahrir Square. His opposition activity dates all the way back to the 1980s, and it got him in so much trouble he was briefly jailed and had to flee to Kuwait for what was delicately described as a "sabbatical." 

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Mekki and Ahmed made history by being among the first judges to openly protest in their judicial robes and sashes, according to The Daily News Egypt -- a bold move in the politically repressive Egypt of 2005.  

Seems like Mekki never liked Egypt's ex-president because he joined an independent judicial group right after Mubarak took office in 1981 and went on lead the nation's first judicial pro-reform protest in 1992, said Ahram Online. He was thrown in jail for a three weeks after campaigning for the release of two judges Mekki believed had been unfairly imprisoned. 

But his big moment came in April 2005, when Mekki "took the microphone at a meeting of the Judges Club in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria," as Ahram Online described it, "launching a now-famous revolt by judges" angered by what they saw as Mubarak's meddling in court affairs. The judicial system in Egypt is notoriously corrupt.

Mubarak did not appreciate Mekki's reformist spirit, nor did he like the fact that he helped compile a "black list of judges” believed complicit in election fraud during the nation's controversial 2005 parliamentary elections. Next thing you know, a public prosecutor had Mekki on trial, it turned into this big deal, with major demonstrations seen outside the High Court on behalf of Mekki and another oppositionist judge, reported Ahram Online. The two were acquitted and decided to wait things out in Kuwait.

Mekki returned to the country when protests broke out last year, appearing in Cairo's Tahrir Square to protest in what has become his trademark style -- full judicial robe, according to Ahram Online.

Mekki, who is in his late fifties, started off in the police academy, then went on to the interior ministry, then switched tracks to study law and became a judge like his brother Ahmed. 

Much less is known about Ahmed, but the rise of the Brothers Mekki has a bit of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale about it, complete with hopes for a happy ending to Egypt's ongoing political crisis